Gebran Bassil, Lebanon's Minister of Foreign Affairs and Emigrants, said in a June 15, 2019 speech that aired on OTV (Lebanon) that the 600,000 displaced Syrians in Lebanon, some of whom are illegally employed and who do not pay taxes, are costing the Lebanese people work opportunities. He said that some of these displaced people travel freely between Lebanon and Syria using their refugee documentation, and that there are international and local civil society organizations that greatly benefit from the situation. Bassil said that these organizations are a "mafia network" that is conspiring against Lebanon to keep the displaced Syrian in Lebanon, and he suggested that the "international motivation" to re-settle Palestinians in Lebanon applies to the displaced Syrians as well. Bassil stressed that all Lebanese citizens regardless of sect are being harmed by the situation. The audience applauded Bassil's remarks.
Gebran Bassil: "We have displaced Syrians who work, and who get work opportunities, without the obligation to pay taxes to the Lebanese state. The Lebanese citizens that are fulfilling all their obligations to the state are facing illegal competition and losing their work opportunities. Lebanese businesses pay taxes, electricity bills, VAT, and so forth, yet they face illegal competition from displaced Syrians, who open stores without any limitation. It's clear that the situation in Syria – you can see that only Idlib is marked in red... All the roads in Syria are open and the security situation has improved. The problems are being resolved, but we still have 600,000 Syrians who go to Syria and come back without any limitation. Many of them have documentation stating that they are displaced.
"Tell me – is there any international law that allows displaced people to go back to their country, and then return to the country to which they fled, using the same documentation, and continue to enjoy the institutions that support them in every aspect of life?
"There are those on the international level who use this as a political bargaining chip. It is a political game and a conspiracy against Lebanon, like what has happened in the past and is happening now. Nobody denies the existence of an international motivation to re-settle the Palestinian refugees in Lebanon. Why is it inconceivable that the same plan applies to the displaced Syrians? There are those, from nations to institutions, who benefit from this conspiracy. There are institutions that are on vacation here in Lebanon. They come to have fun and to receive a high wage and benefits, and they simply do not want the mission to end. 'Luxury Mission.' That's what they call it.
"Did you know that, sometimes, of all the money that these institutions and their employees get, only 40% goes to the displaced people? It goes to administrative expenses and such things... It's just business, that's all. Even inside Lebanon, there are those who benefit, [who work] in international and local civil society organizations. There are Lebanese people who benefit from this. They rent out places, provide services...There is a large mafia network, and we know that they sell the goods and food that they are responsible for in Syria. They collect the goods, move them to [Syria], and sell them there. Some Lebanese benefit from this process. There's an entire system of finances, politics, and media that encourages the Syrians to remain here, and its goal is to prevent them from going back, and it attacks and harms anybody like us who asks them to go back.
"Our starting point is humanitarian and patriotic, and it is not sectarian, because every in Lebanon – with no exceptions – is harmed by the displaced Syrians. All the Lebanese suffer from this. Nobody suffers more or less than the others. We are all together in this matter. The people saying this are not Nazis, fascists, or racists – they are patriotic Lebanese